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  • Dr. Lalit Chawla

E#57: The Wheel of Needs3: The Need for Growth & Contribution in Our Lives


This is a episode explains how the need for why growth and contribution leads to fulfillment and happiness.

(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)


Welcome back, I hope you are having a super day. This is the third part of the series on The 6 Human Needs or as I refer to it as "The Wheels of Need". As a quick recap, firstly, I feel this is essential for me to say that this is a framework that I've shared with others, whether it is at a conference or with medical students and residents. All of whom have found this exceptionally meaningful because it explains why people behave the way they do. It also helps people gain a level of understanding about human behaviour that they've never fully appreciate before. It also is a tremendous tool to know how to help people too.

The first episode was about the need for certainty and uncertainty and how they play a role in our lives. The second episode was on the need for recognition and the need for love and the importance they have in our lives. If you didn't listen to it, please do as it is helpful and will make this episode even more powerful and meaningful to you. I promise you this framework transforms people and will change the way you see yourself and others and significantly improve your understanding of human relationships and motivations.

But in a nutshell, in terms of the first two needs, certainty and uncertainty/variety, we need to have a security level in our health, relationships, and financial life, which varies from person to person. The need for variety is also important in that we need to challenge our mental, emotional, and physical well-being, too, that varies from person to person. The need for recognition or significance is something we all need, and we can meet this need, as in all of the needs, in a positive, negative or neutral way. And the fourth need was the need for love and connection. That need is the need for how and why we connect with others and ourselves. Whether it's our peers, family or partner, now that is highly simplified. Let's talk about the next two needs. Which consists of the needs to feel fulfilled and to thrive in our lives.

The four needs: certainty, variety, significance and love/connection are called the survival needs or needs of the personality. Everyone meets these needs to various degrees. These four needs shape most of the wheel, but it doesn't get the wheel moving. The wheel is incomplete. Individuals who never progress beyond these four needs will never move beyond survival. We all know or have heard of individuals who have met all the four needs at a high level but get involved in self-destructive behaviours like drugs, alcohol or other harmful addictions. We've read about celebrities who have committed suicide intentionally or otherwise because they mostly did not feel fulfilled in their life despite having riches, fame and a massive level of variety and excitement. The reason people get into these states is that they are lacking the next two needs for thriving. The need for growth and contribution.

celebrities who have committed suicide intentionally or otherwise because they mostly did not feel fulfilled in their life despite having riches, fame and a massive level of variety and excitement.

These next two needs give a person's life meaning and extend it to another level of fulfillment, joy and realization. We've all experienced these emotions at some level, even if it was brief. It felt right, and we knew we connected and felt an inner harmony when we were meeting these needs. These two needs are called the needs for fulfillment or what I like to call the needs to thrive because being fulfilled occurs when your life has meaning and the way to get that is by the needs of growth and contribution.

5. The Need for GROWTH/ CHALLENGE:

Growth is a necessary experience of life and is intrinsic in all of us. We all want to expand and explore our experiences, feelings and abilities. When we are growing, we are in moments of energy, stimulation with a sense of verve presence. If you reflect on something in your life that you love, get enthusiastic about or are proud of, it has a strong element of growth in it. That's why people enjoy gardening, doing crafts, creating works of art, raising children, watching a building being constructed, etc. The people who are managing their well being during this pandemic are harnessing this need because they have time to learn, grow and do a hobby or skill they want. They are not idle in this respect.

Being creative, breathes energy, life, and momentum. Inspirational goals and challenges give us a sense of purpose to express and discover. As humans, we've had this sense of exploration in all fields, whether exploring and experiencing different cultures, improving our health, spiritual convictions or seeking to travel other worlds and galaxies. If we are not challenged or have goals for ourselves, we exist in a dormant uninspired presence. Growth inherently has a life energy presence that allows us to move beyond what we are seeing and experiencing in the present.

Being challenged is so essential that even when people have had major surgery, we have to get them up to walk and move their body. It's been proven if people don't move, they become unhealthy from too much rest. The body is meant to move, even after hip replacement patients move their limbs; it's vital for proper recovery.

Bored people don't have regular elements of growth in their life.

We all need inspiring goals to strive for; when this is not a part of our regular life, we feel slow and unmotivated. Take a moment to pause and ask yourself what activities inspire you or excite you? Write it down. In fact, that's why journaling routinely is so helpful -that activity of writing stimulates growth in your mind and spirit.

Inspirational goals and challenges give us a sense of purpose to express and discover.

When growth occurs healthily, we are feeling our most energetic with full purpose. Striving for goals is necessary and vital in everybody's life. We all need to have a healthy level of a tailored challenge otherwise, we become unmotivated, dull, rusty, and dusty.

One of the most exciting times in my life was when I was learning new illusions, creating new ideas. I was also learning how to choreograph lighting, sounds and routines to illusions and effects. I was so full of vibrant energy that I had trouble sleeping because every day was full of new developments. Upon self-reflection, I realize that having inspirational learning on a consistent daily basis invigorates me. My day never feels complete if I haven't grown, learned or done something new. It helps make the day look uniquely fresh and creates a high level of vibrancy; that's why I schedule it daily in some shape or form. This is a feeling everyone can tap into if they gear the right level of inspirational and tangible challenges tailored to their unique interests. When we are challenged or growing, we are living in a higher plane of inspiration.

I've heard people tell me that they don't necessarily believe this because they know people whose only growth goal seems to be to grow their beer belly, but I don't believe that's true. I honestly believe people are not lazy; they are just uninspired and/or inhibited by their fears that they haven't learned to overcome. They get deconditioned by themselves or by others consistently, not realizing that they can choose to change their focus at any second. Everyone gets excited about something that adds direct or indirect value to themselves or others

people tell me that they don't necessarily believe this because they know people whose only growth goal seems to be to grow their beer belly

As well, the way we grow and improve evolves over time and in different phases of our lives. There are physical changes that occur from birth to adolescence to adulthood and then old age. Our emotional responses develop through different experiences and changes as we move from one life stage to the next.

Often individuals reminisce about their younger college years when they were poor, uncertain with very little stability about their current situation or future. However, they recall it as "the best time of their lives." The essential reason was that it was a time of high growth and learning in all aspects of their life, such as academically, emotionally, financially, and often physically. Our interpretations of the challenges we have also affect the intensity that we wish to grow. If the experiences have been fulfilling, we may continue with that activity, and if they haven't, we won't.

In my world, I've seen physicians, nurses, and other health care providers find their professional life is getting boring, and they are just punching the time clock. But the people who have joy and vitality are always talking, sharing what they are learning or experiencing. That's why attending conferences, having learning groups, and like-minded friends is critical to keeping the drive for growth alive. Learning more is what keeps people's inertia and mentoring forward.

It's crucial to be surrounded or in contact with people who inspire you to do more, and support your growth efforts and for you to support theirs. Incorporating the habit of growth in some shape or form daily is critical to feeling happy and purposeful. Creating growth goals, short term and long term helps fuel meaning to your life and others. It's a known fact that retiring can lead individuals to an early grave, but those who don't have the word of 'retirement' in their vocabulary continue to grow and thrive. That's why we often see many great champions of growth in the later years of life as they have more time for personal development, community development and aspirations. Growth also leads to the sixth and vital need that leads to happiness, fulfillment, and meaning, the need for contribution.

reminisce about their younger college years when they were poor, uncertain with very little stability about their current situation or future. However, they recall it as "the best time of their lives."

The sixth need (and the second need for fulfillment):


If you want to be happy, make someone else happy.

We all have an inner aspiration to make our lives and others better. Contributing is a substantial intrinsic drive not only for healthcare workers but also for the consciously driven individual. People inherently want to add value to others, feel cared for and engage in higher levels of involvement, which can only come through contribution. This internal drive to add value to others and ourselves lies within us and is easily activated if we are attuned to how this sparks our energy and affects the larger world. By contributing to others we grow, we feel a level of connection, certainty, variety, significance and growth that is unparalleled to any other need as this need for contribution encompasses all the other needs. This last need completes the Wheel of Needs and gives momentum and energy that leads to greater happiness.

Human beings are at their finest when they are being challenged and contributing to themselves and beyond. Human beings must meet this need in some shape or form, whether by raising children, donating time or money to a cause, mentoring others, or even recycling bottles and paper products to protect the environment. If you reflect on your life, when you are contributing, you feel more alive and genuinely fulfilled when you are creating purposeful actions even if they are brief. These actions are what give life meaning. A life without purpose creates unhappiness. A life without growth or contribution causes a person to feel hopeless and unmotivated moment to moment.

An elderly patient of mine was extremely depressed. He had all sorts of treatments, including many ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatments, which are used in extreme cases for refractory treatment of depression. He was a quiet man, and whenever he came in with his wife his smile always seemed forced. His depression was lifelong, severe and worsening gradually. Many measures were taken to protect him against himself, such as removing his farm rifles from his premises because the risk of suicide was so high.

An unexpected thing occurred when his wife had broken her leg and could no longer do the day to day house chores. He had to get up and take care of her; it was not an option for him to sit in his chair and watch TV. He had to do the dishes and even make dinner. When he came in after six weeks of taking care of his wife, he looked like a different man. He walked and talked like a happier man. When I commented on this new look, he told me how he had to help around the house and how much better he felt emotionally, physically and spiritually. His wife commented that it had been a long time since he had felt that way. They couldn't believe the change. That was the magic of contribution at work. That was the new element that came into his life that made an impactful change. His life had a more significant meaning that required daily action that incorporated movement, emotion and spiritual service of gratitude and giving beyond himself. When we contribute, we know we are involved in something grand, we have a feeling of inclusion at a level that only contribution provides.

We all have an inner aspiration to make our lives and others better.

How Do All These Needs Drive Us?

What makes individuals unique is the way they meet their needs, i.e., the vehicles they chose. Specifically, everyone, regardless of age, background, history, is guided by one to two of the above six needs predominantly. That makes it easier to understand human behaviour as a whole. When people interact, we are being influenced and making choices that guide our thoughts and expectations based on those top two needs.

For example, you can have two people working on an assembly line working side by side, and one person, Person A, may be driven by a high degree of certainty and significance. He feels tremendously grateful to be working. The person next to him, Person B, may have a high need for variety and growth and can't stand the repetitive nature of the job. He may say something to the effect "I can't move another one of these widgets any longer, this job is boring, monotonous, and I don't care what I get paid or how bad the economy is, I will find something else or create something, I quit." The person next to him, who has a high need for certainty and significance, may not understand that individual's comments because it is so different from his own needs structure. He may criticize or judge him for being careless, uncaring and reckless. The same could be said about the person who is quitting. He or she may not understand how Person A can continue to work at that job, thinking or vocalizing, "how can you keep doing that kind of boring, mundane work day after day?" (This type of internal judgment occurs in so many ways in our lives. Think about people you judge or evaluate. How is their behaviour/need structure different from yours. However, if both understand that people inherently have different need structures, it helps individuals overcome judgments, negative opinions and animosities that divide people from having healthier acceptance of people's viewpoints and choices. It's not that they are bad or irrational; they just driven differently because their needs are different. So in the above example, if either worker didn't understand human needs psychology, they would both walk away from each other judging and thinking that the other party is ignorant, reckless or careless. But if they understood that both of them come from a different place, then understanding happens.

What I'd like you to do is for the following week, in every interaction, you come across, watch and observe people's behaviour as to what needs are driving their comments or behaviours. Also, reflect on your needs. Is one need more predominant over another in your life choices? Go to The Human Needs Questionnaire on the website (Click the Reference Tab at the top of the home page) for your free personal assessment. I don't collect any information, but some of the questions help look at different areas in your life as to what your top two needs are. It's worth doing this exercise as it helps you learn and remember the material. As I've said, when I've taught this to medical students and residents, they have been amazed at how these frameworks help them understand themselves and patients they work with.

In the next episode, I'll share how the six human needs can be used to change a habit and how it dramatically influences relationships. I have a profound true story of how that illustrates that example.

I hope this served you in some way, if you've enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share with a friend or colleague and subscribe to us Apple podcast, Spotify or your favourite podcast app. And if you goto the and sign in there, you’ll get my weekly emails about the podcast episode that’s coming out.

I would love to hear any comments about this podcast and what would you like to hear in future episodes?


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